The mental health benefits of meditation are well-documented. Meditation is known to calm the mind and help you become self-aware and self-possessed. Meditating regularly transforms you fundamentally at a deep psychological level by teaching you how not to let stress get the better of you or reduce you to a worrywart. When you are relaxed, your mind is sharper and quicker, and you gain the clarity and perspective to turn your worries into solutions.
Yes, meditation is so powerful that it can turn you from a constant worrier to a creative problem-solver.
How Meditation Prepares Your Mind by Reducing Stress
Stress is debilitating. A stressed-out mind is unable to think straight or think things through. To solve problems, you must be able to stay calm in times of crisis and not let your thoughts get overrun by negativity.
Here’s how meditation helps you manage and reduce stress:
By making you aware of mental stress
You need to be aware of your stress before you can work on it to make it disappear. But it is not always easy to lay a finger on a disturbing feeling or a nagging worry; they are so fleeting. So here’s a roundabout way to become aware of mental stress, so you can let it go. Use the body scan technique.
Mental stress almost always manifests as specific physical symptoms. A tightness in the chest. Butterflies in the stomach. Dry mouth. Rapid breathing. Getting sweaty. These are the tell-tale physical symptoms of mental stress.
According to researchers at the Harvard University, body scanning combined with deep breathing helps you relax and focus on specific parts of your body so you can learn to gently notice any tension before deeply releasing it. Learning to let go of bodily tension primes you to release the tension in your mind. Our Deep Stress-Relief Relaxation technique can guide you to use the body scan and deep breathing in a systematic way so you can create a state of profound bodily and mental relaxation.
Body scan tunes you to be more aware of the mind-body connection. It helps you manage stress in another way.
If you are calm and relaxed and have built up body awareness through repeated body scan exercises, you can discern the physical signs of stress brewing and be on your guard. When you have this heads-up, you can immediately pause, take a deep breath, and stop yourself from yielding to negative stress responses.
By creating an opportunity to pause
By creating a moment of stillness, you choose not to “react” and rush blindly into decisions. You can use this pause to get a hold on your thoughts and keep them from jumping all over the place. A pause also gives you the mental space to work on your stress responses.
By letting you mentally rehearse your stress responses
Some stressors will always be around you. So if you can’t get rid of them, you must learn not to give in to these. Control how you respond to stress. Replay in your mind a recurring stressful incident from your life, and visualize yourself being calm and relaxed in this situation. See yourself acting and behaving from a place of stillness and making wise choices.
Visualization exercises help you desensitize yourself to particular stressors. As a result, you are no longer perturbed by them when you face them in real life.
By making you feel empowered and in control of your life
Meditating regularly makes you a calmer person. You learn not to give in to the negativities of stress. That, in turn, makes you feel empowered. You know you can control your mind and regulate your responses, so you are now more confident about controlling the outcomes in your life.
By creating balance in your life
The pockets of stillness meditation creates slow the frenetic pace at which you hurtle down life’s path. When you take some time out during the day to not do anything or worry about something, you feel less rushed and more in control of yourself and what’s happening around you. Your life feels balanced, and you feel more confident about tackling any curveball life throws at you.
How Can You Channel Your Worries and Turn Them Into Solutions?
Life does not always sail smoothly. There are hiccups and roadblocks. You stumble sometimes while at other times, you feel stuck and lost. These are trying times, and you can be forgiven for worrying. It is not unnatural for the mind to go into a tizzy imagining hair-raising possibilities. Niggling worries, unanswered questions, and grave doubts gnaw at your mind, and don’t let you rest.
You have a choice here. You can either let your mind run wild with worry, but not reach anywhere near a resolution, or you can channel your worries into blue-sky thinking and come up with novel solutions. What do you want to do?
We know you want to know how you can use your worries to your advantage. Here’s how you can:
Get into the practice of noticing your thoughts objectively
The key to solving your problems lies in your doubts and worries. They will tell you what’s wrong in your life right now and what needs to be tweaked to solve your present problems. But to glean the answers, you have to listen to your thoughts objectively.
Objectivity means that you are able to take the “me” out of your trials and tribulations and examine your problems from a bystander’s viewpoint, unbiased. You have to be as stoic as an observer who is not that affected by either the problem or its solution. Such an attitude lets you mull over your thoughts without negative emotions clouding your judgement.
Meditating regularly will help you remain calm and step outside your mind—your fears, your doubts, and your worries—to examine what’s going on in your life more objectively.
Acknowledge that your worries are your allies
Yes, you read right. All those doubts and worries are signals that your life is not in order. Your worries are reality checks of sorts, though they have a tendency to go overboard. They are asking you to pull up your socks to face challenges or change what is not working in your life right now. When you embrace this belief, you will no longer be troubled by your worries. Instead, you will feel grateful for these alerts and be determined to make the most of these opportunities.
Worry thoughts have the potential to energize you and help you focus and direct your efforts as you search for the solutions to your problems. So instead of wasting precious physical and mental energies fidgeting and losing sleep over what’s not working in your life, channel your energies to analyze your worries, calmly and objectively.
Analyze the cause of your worries
Objectivity is the watchword here. Take up one problem at a time and look at it impassively.
Determine what has gone wrong to trigger the issue and what do you need to do to correct course. Research your options, draw up a list of resources available to you, and create a plan of action. Create plan B as well.
When you analyze your problems and plan for remedial action without letting fear and doubt get in the way, you transform from a problem-oriented mindset to a solution-focused one. Your worries melt away because you realize there are ways and means to tide over your troubles. You are hopeful and optimistic.
Accept what you cannot control and move on
There will be some stressors in your life that you cannot control. Other people, how they behave, and what they believe in. The government and the economy. The weather. You got the idea, right? Don’t break into a sweat over what you cannot control. Accept the fact, and look for alternate ways to solve your problems. This will save you precious time and energy and ensure that your plans are not founded on factors that are flimsy and can change in an instant.
Visualize yourself implementing your plans and succeeding
Visualization is a powerful motivational exercise.
Go over the steps of your plan in your mind’s eye. Visualize that your plans are working out for you. “See” your problems melting away, and you getting back in command. Visualization exercises, when performed repeatedly, gently implant positive messages in your sub-conscious mind. As you “see” yourself channeling your worries into creative problem-solving thinking, the images begin to feel real. You become more confident of your abilities and less prone to worrying.
There’s a less-known but equally powerful effect of visualizing yourself in the act of carrying out your plans and solving your problems. Visualization lets you access the reserve of wisdom and knowledge that is inside you, which is your gut or your instinct or your intuition. And no, this is not some mumbo-jumbo stuff where voices ring out of nowhere or writings appear on the wall. Your gut is for real.
According to scientists, humans are programmed to have gut feelings or hunches to survive and thrive. Our cave-dwelling forefathers did not have fully-developed brains that could help them assess present conditions and figure out the possible outcomes of their actions. Instead, they had gut reactions that were triggered by memories of long-forgotten dangers, dredged from the depths of their unconscious minds. You might say that we all have an internal compass-cum-alarm that lets us know if we have made a wrong move or if we are staring at danger.
Be calm and very relaxed when you visualize yourself carrying out the steps of your plan. Listen to what your gut is telling you. Pay attention to what that tiny little voice inside you is hinting at. If there is something not quite right in your plans, your gut will let you know. The gut is always right.
Gut feelings come on powerfully when you are calm and relaxed. So if you have been meditating for some time, it will be easy for you to ease into a relaxed state and open up your intuitive powers. A guided meditation app can be a great companion in that process.
Remember your successes and use them to practice self-affirmation
Give yourself some pep talk from time to time, and more when you grappling with a crisis. Instead of worrying how on earth you are going to tide over the crisis, remember all those times when you triumphed over seemingly insurmountable odds. Remember those instances where you refused to let your fears get the better of you and instead, chose to take them head on. Remember your successes and let yourself be inspired.
Pausing. Breathing deeply. Visualizing positive outcomes. Cultivating body awareness. Paying attention to gut feelings. Unfortunately, these practices do not come easily to us; we have become too accustomed to living life on the fast lane and inundating our senses with beeps and blinks from digital devices. The Meditable app lets you get into the groove with guided meditation, deep breathing and body scanning, and visualization exercises.